BEA is a few days gone, and I finally have time to get to writing about the booths I visited.
There were 3 ebook signing systems at BEA, and IdolVine were by far the biggest and the flashiest. It was also the most lavishly funded. They'd hired a number of authors to remotely sign autographs, and even had a few on site (that's where I found Margaret Atwood). But this is not really an ebook autographing system. It's actually a lot more than that. IdolVine are trying to recreate the entire author/fan experience as it exists at cons.
Their system consists of a local computer plus webcam setup plus a second setup where ever the author happens to be. One of the demos was Neil Gaiman remotely signing autographs (from his home in MN). It was very shiny to watch him do it, but the whole webcam thing gave me an icky feeling. I'm not sure why.
IdolVine requires a fair amount of hardware, and that can be a problem. I was only watching the demo for a few minutes when they had to shut it down. Interference from something was causing feedback in the speakers. I later found out that they'd been having trouble the day before, too. I'm sure the technical bugs can be hammered out, but I'd rather go with a system that has fewer parts.
This system is probably also the most expensive, both in terms of hardware and bandwidth. It's designed around 2 webcams running at any one time. For convention centers like the Javits Center, that's a lot of bandwidth. Another problem with this system is that it depends on the remote author being tech-savvy enough to get it up and running. You also have to ship at least some parts of the system to the remote author, which is another expense.
I expect to see IdolVine show up elsewhere with interesting digital experiences. Hopefully they'll work better.